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James Bond Supports International Women’s Day
COMS 760 Dr. Brookey April 25, 2011
James Bond Supports International Women’s Day 2 James Bond Supports International Women’s Day Introduction WeAreEQUALS, an organization created by Annie Lennox, seeks to promote International Women’s Day in the United Kingdom as a means to discuss and celebrate issues important to women worldwide. March 8, 2011 was the 100th annual celebration of International Women’s Day. WeAreEQUALS used this anniversary as a vehicle to launch their website and the ongoing campaign for equality. Or, as WeAreEQUALS puts it: “In China women have the day off work, in Bosnia and Italy women are given gifts of flowers and in Cameroon women dance in the streets in celebration. Yet in the UK, the event has gone largely unnoticed…until now. This centenary year will be a turning point” (2011a). International Women’s Day began in the early twentieth century as a part of early first wave feminism. According to Cooke (2010), in March of 1905, 15,000 women from a United States garment factory marched for political rights and labor rights, including safer working conditions. Two months later, the Socialist Party of America designated a National Women’s Day to be celebrated the following spring. Meanwhile, European women’s delegations agreed to honor the garment workers’ strike in the United States in an international day of recognition. The first observed day for women occurred in Europe in 1911. However, the day was not formally recognized by the United Nations until 1977. Its formal name from the UN is the United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace, to be observed on March 8 each year.
James Bond Supports International Women’s Day 3 Its mission is simple: “The EQUALS coalition is a partnership of charities and organisations that believe men and women are equals and that we should have equal rights, equal opportunities and equal representation in politics, education, health, employment, family life and media and culture” (2011b). To bring forth its mission and in celebration of the holiday, WeAreEQUALS uses its website as a hub of suggested activities. For example, the “Mighty Little Deeds” page features a variety of ways one can pledge to make a difference in a woman’s life. By selecting how much time one has (a little moment, some browsing time, an afternoon, an evening, or all day), the user is given a variety of creative pledges to choose. If a user commits to “a little moment,” WeAreEQUALS suggests to “Hashtag International Women’s Day” on Twitter. If a user can commit to an evening, WeAreEQUALS suggests to “Put women in the pub” by asking one’s favorite pub to dedicate a round of trivia to International Women’s Day questions. Or one may take a more organized route to involvement. Clicking the link to “EQUALS Soul Train” will provide the user with information on how to organize one’s own dance party for equality or find other dance parties in the area. WeAreEQUALS cites the international language of dance as its inspiration for the Soul Train gatherings and even provides a video tutorial to learn some basic dance steps. If dancing is not one’s idea of celebrating women and equality, the link to “EQUALS on Film” provides information on some of its film partners. For instance, a link to “Films Online” provides films through online political cinema partner Brightwide. The link to “Films in Cinemas” provides information for the Birds Eye
James Bond Supports International Women’s Day 4 View Film Festival in London as well as the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in San Francisco and London. These festivals showcase films for, by, and about women and women’s issues. However, these are not the only films with which WeAreEQUALS affiliates itself. According to a WeAreEQUALS press release made available on March 7, 2011, James Bond supports International Women’s Day (2011c). The press release details an online video released for mass consumption starring Daniel Craig with a voiceover from Dame Judi Dench. The video, directed by Sam Taylor-Wood (who also directed Nowhere Boy, a film about John Lennon) and written by Jane Goldman (who has written the forthcoming X-Men: First Class film), uses the James Bond character to make its point. It features Craig as James Bond walking through a darkened room towards the camera with a backlight illuminating his full body, clearly putting his body on display. We hear Dench, as her Bond character M, ask, “We’re equals, aren’t we, 007?” At this point, Bond finds the camera and maintains eye contact with the viewer as the camera zooms in. Meanwhile, M highlights inequalities between men and women: “Unlike the 30,000 women in the UK who lose their jobs annually due to pregnancy, there would be virtually no risk to your career if you chose to become a parent or became one accidentally.” The usually stoic James Bond looks uncomfortable with M’s facts, a feeling exacerbated by the camera’s closeness to his face. Halfway through the video, M says: “For someone with such a fondness for women, I wonder if you’ve ever considered what it might be like to be one.” At this point, Bond leaves the frame.
James Bond Supports International Women’s Day 5 Bond returns to the frame a moment later in a silence broken only by the sound of heels—his heels. Bond is dressed in drag, complete with breasts, panty hose, a wrap dress, a long blonde wig, jewelry, and makeup. He walks towards the camera as M says, “The world has changed, but the numbers are stacked against us.” She continues to detail the hardships women and girls around the world face. As she does so, Bond removes the wig and earrings and appears to be increasingly more uncomfortable. M’s facts become more aggressive, involving statistics about domestic violence and sexual assault, and the camera zooms into Bond’s face. Finally, with Bond looking directly into the camera, M asks, “So, are we equals?” and Bond walks out of the frame. M continues: “Until the answer is yes, we must never stop asking.” The EQUALS campaign logo appears with the website URL as the video ends. This campaign went viral in a matter of hours. The press release is dated March 7, 2011 and I saw mentions of it the very same day. I first saw it linked from a Twitter account operated by an editor of the blog Feministing.com (annfriedman, 2011). According to Unruly Media’s Viral Video Chart, the video has been shared nearly 70,000 times on Facebook alone and viewed over 1.7 million times on YouTube (2011). By the morning of International Women’s Day, a plethora of online news sources and blogs had included mentions of the video into their headlines, including The Huffington Post, CBS News, and The Washington Post. In addition to the WeAreEQUALS website and the video itself, this paper will analyze the online news and blog coverage of the EQUALS campaign video featuring Daniel Craig and Judi Dench. I will be critiquing these articles because they are examples of how the
James Bond Supports International Women’s Day 6 Internet disciplines gender performance, especially in its relation to masculinity. This analysis is informed by John Sloop’s definition of gender disciplining: “Gender trouble is always limited in its deconstructive potential because representations and public arguments involving cases of gender trouble are persistently ‘disciplined,’ contained within the realms of gender normativity” (2004). Furthermore, this paper will examine masculinity as performance in light of the James Bond franchise. It is no secret that James Bond is a fearless womanizer, or as Black puts it, “…female sexuality appears as a threat, but one that Bond is able to overcome” (2002). However, M’s gender change in the 1990s with the casting of Dame Judi Dench complicates gender representation in the James Bond franchise. A discussion of performativity will be informed by Judith Butler’s (1990) theory. It is important to discuss masculinity and gender performance in its relation to an International Women’s Day campaign because WeAreEQUALS explicitly seeks to unite all genders in its mission towards a more equal world. The depiction of James Bond in drag complicates the James Bond character and its association with a romanticized version of heroic masculinity. In doing so, WeAreEQUALS’ mission could be diluted by the campaign’s insistence of using a popular star and character. James Bond, and specifically Daniel Craig’s portrayal of the character, is a weighty artifact in terms of his history and his sexuality. Bennett and Woollacott’s (1987) analysis of the James Bond franchise will influence this discussion. In addition to the video’s representation of gender performance and masculinity, this paper will discuss the viral nature of the video itself. Bennett (2003) writes of the capacity of the Internet to create social change. Through its
James Bond Supports International Women’s Day 7 speed and low cost, it is able to overcome any spatial or temporal limitations a message, movement, or political organization may have once encountered. Furthermore, memetic qualities as outlined by Dawkins (1989) allow the video itself to spread rapidly. Clearly, this is the hope WeAreEQUALS had in mind when creating an online activist community and corresponding video. In sum, WeAreEQUALS has used the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day as its vehicle to create a dynamic campaign for international gender equality. The WeAreEQUALS viral video campaign starring Daniel Craig and Dame Judi Dench seeks to unite men and women in the fight for gender equality. It recognizes that men’s participation in this endeavor is necessary. The use of the James Bond character to illustrate this is exemplary however troubled. The campaign went viral in a matter of hours, reaching international online news and blog outlets and was shared rapidly through social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. This media coverage disciplined the gender representations within the video, but did not diminish the impact of the message itself. The purpose of this paper is to evaluate how the Internet can act as a vehicle to spread an important message: problematizing representations of gender and working towards a more equal global community through a popular culture sensation.
Gender Theory & James Bond Prior to discussing what James Bond has to do with gender equality, I must discuss how gender is represented in the James Bond franchise. Anyone familiar with James Bond novels and films knows that Bond is the pinnacle of heroic
James Bond Supports International Women’s Day 8 masculinity. He utilizes incredible weapon technology, cunning charm, and brute force to fight for his country. All the while, he enchants beautiful women, be they innocent bystanders or arch nemeses. The Bond novels are semi-pornographic in their details of Bond’s sexual escapades. The Bond films showcase gratuitous sex scenes and highly sexualized representations of women. What’s more, in recent films, the person Bond reports to has been M, played by a woman. Using these characters to further a mission of gender equality is clearly problematic. Dame Judi Dench took on the role of M in the Bond series in the 1990s with Pierce Brosnan in the role of James Bond. She has maintained this role through the casting of Daniel Craig. M was written as a man in the novels and was traditionally cast as a man until Judi Dench’s portrayal in GoldenEye (1995). Bennett and Woollacott’s Beyond Bond (1987) was written prior to the casting of Dench but includes a still relevant (or perhaps even more relevant) analysis of M in relation to Bond’s masculinity. Bennett and Woollacott contend that M is the paternal authority over the Secret Service, through which the character embodies both England and the phallus (weapon technology). Understanding M as a character in control of the Bond phallus, Dench’s M can be read as a literal representation of the Freudian castrated women. Mulvey (1988/1975) explains that woman “symbolizes the castration threat by her real absence of a penis” but M, as bearer of weaponry, acts symbolically as man. In fact, Bond must often call on M to secure the latest weapon lest he enter a battle unarmed, or castrated, himself. This psychoanalysis can lend itself to readings of Bond as fearful of women and, more specifically, Dench as M. In fact, Halberstam (1998) insists that it is Dench as M who “most
James Bond Supports International Women’s Day 9 convincingly performs masculinity, and she does so partly by exposing the sham of Bond’s own performance.” Halberstam goes on to explain that it is often M who brings light to Bond’s inherent sexism and misogynist remarks in the James Bond films. With the WeAreEQUALS video, M has a chance to directly confront James Bond on the issue of gender equality. We see that, when confronted, Bond is silent. He has no sly remark. In fact, it is M who is left with the upper hand in a better performance of masculinity than the hero himself. She has exposed the sham of his masculine performance. On the other hand, the WeAreEQUALS video problematizes this psychoanalytic reading with its depiction of Daniel Craig in drag. Furthermore, it is Dench as M who, as parent and as castrated woman, brings light to gender inequality in a teaching manner, as though she is instructing Craig as Bond. Her tone seems to diminish or emasculate Craig but he is boyishly aloof and uninterested. As Dench continues, her facts on gender inequality become graver and Craig’s face becomes more ashamed, exacerbated by the camera’s zoom. His expression reflects that of a young boy in trouble. He walks out of the frame and returns in drag, visibly uncomfortable in heels and a dress. The use of crossdressing in this video is fascinating for a number of reasons; however, it is on the political influence of cross-dressing that I will focus. Garber (1992) writes that the power of transvestism is its ability to “disrupt, expose, and challenge, putting in question the very notion of the ‘original’ and of stable identity.” By dressing James Bond in women’s clothing, the gender binary is disrupted, exposed, and challenged, letting viewers see how gender performance is fluid. What’s more is the fact Craig
James Bond Supports International Women’s Day 10 begins to remove many of the feminine elements as the video ends, further challenging socially constructed gender as a structure of power. Judith Butler (1991) contends that all drag suggests all gender is an act of performance or impersonation. In dressing Bond as a woman, the video calls attention to the overt performativity of gender in a binary system. Butler (1990) describes performativity as the naturalization and internalization of gender through repetition and routine. Craig’s transvestism in the video is intentional and politically motivated, and therefore is an example of overt performativity of gender. Here we see arguably one of the most masculine fixtures in popular culture performing the opposite gender relatively well. In doing so, the video shows how all gender is constructed and performative. Therefore, the logical conclusion is that we are all one in the same and, as a result, we all should be equal. Bond’s transvestism represents the literalization of gender that we must understand in order to de-literalize it (Sloop, 2004). In other words, we must break down socially constructed gender constraints in order to achieve full equality and we do so by understanding that gender is performed. According to a theory popularized by Laura Mulvey (1988/1975), women are often depicted as passive receivers of an active male gaze. This theory has often been challenged as media becomes more inclusive of women and women’s desires. In recent James Bond films featuring Daniel Craig, it has been suggested that Craig is positioned to receive a female gaze. However, Tremonte and Racioppi (2009) argue otherwise. They note that, although the viewer is positioned to take in Craig’s body, “we are not permitted to luxuriate in Bond’s appeal.” Furthermore, their analysis
James Bond Supports International Women’s Day 11 points out that the shot of the shirtless Craig in Casino Royale lasts only 14 seconds. This is contrasted with the fact that a gratuitous full body shot of a nearly naked Halle Berry lasts upwards of 40 seconds in Die Another Day. Indeed, James Bond is never positioned as the receiver of the gaze. However, the WeAreEQUALS video challenges this gaze. The viewer is allowed to take in Craig’s appearance, both dressed as a man as well as a woman. Perhaps this gaze is female, but it is more likely gender neutral. The gaze is non-gratuitous. The viewer is not taking pleasure in looking and neither is Craig in his “looked-at-ness.” In fact, Craig is visibly uncomfortable in the literal spotlight. The camera challenges his understood masculinity in its unwavering position. Additionally, the gaze does not shift when Bond is dressed as a woman. It is this gender-neutral position that allows the video to appeal to all genders. Ultimately, this is the goal for an organization that strives to unite all genders in the fight for equality. As we can see, this video can act as a vehicle to spread an important message: Problematizing gender helps us achieve a more equal society. The video attains this through the use of celebrity and the internationally known James Bond franchise. Next, I will discuss how the video was sensational through the gender disciplining enacted by news media.
Disciplined Gender The WeAreEQUALS video campaign was widely distributed and covered by international news media sources. However, what is troubling is the way in which these news media sources discipline gender performance, especially in its relation
James Bond Supports International Women’s Day 12 to masculinity. This analysis is informed by John Sloop’s definition of gender disciplining: “Gender trouble is always limited in its deconstructive potential because representations and public arguments involving cases of gender trouble are persistently ‘disciplined,’ contained within the realms of gender normativity” (2004). Such an evocative video garnered much positive attention from feminist media circles, but feminists are already aware of the inequalities highlighted by M. The question remains: How did the rest of the world view the viral video sensation? We may look to media outlets that picked up the media release in an attempt to answer this question. It must be noted that the only mention in the media release of Craig’s attire is this: “Bond then appears in a blonde wig, a dress and women’s shoes, in a sequence that is both highly emotional and deeply disturbing” (2011c). However, a brief overview of headlines illuminates the media’s obsession with his unusual gender performance. An article by Jessica Derschowitz for CBSNews online ran a variation of the most common news headline: “Daniel Craig dresses in drag for International Women’s Day.” This is an example of the most typical representation of the story. Many headlines incorporate the word “drag” even though the press release never mentioned this word. Furthermore, many headlines center their message around the act of cross-dressing itself, not the message of the video: “Daniel Craig in Drag for International Women’s Day” (Huffington Post, 2011), “James Bond video for International Women’s Day shows 007’s feminine side” (Addley, for The Guardian, 2011), “Daniel Craig dons dress for International Women’s Day” (Cornelio, for
James Bond Supports International Women’s Day 13 Yahoo! News, 2011), “Daniel Craig goes drag for International Women’s Day” (Wilson, for BBC America, 2011). Indeed, it is not simply the headlines that speak to the otherness of men in drag. Within many of the articles is a discussion of the queer gender representation in a negative light, deeming it abnormal and ultimately disciplining Craig’s gender representation. In fact, many articles go so far as to include only a picture of Craig in a dress. The aforementioned Huffington Post article even tagged the article with the following labels: inspiring, funny, hot, scary, outrageous, amazing, weird, and crazy. The intention of the video was to be inspiring but it can be assumed that it never intended to be outrageous or weird. Labeling an article about International Women’s Day “outrageous” or “crazy” minimizes the importance of the day and the mission of WeAreEQUALS. Another instance comes from the Toronto Star. The headline reads “Viral: It’s Bond, Jane Bond” (Barmak, 2011) which succeeds in gendering the Bond character as female, even though Daniel Craig is a man and initially appears dressed as a man until donning feminine clothing. This is not the only article that focuses solely on the act of cross-dressing. In Yahoo! News, Cornelio (2011) introduces the video briefly but moves into a discussion of Annie Lennox, the founder of WeAreEQUALS, and her sexual orientation as it relates to her masculine style of dress. Cornelio writes: “Though a popular gay icon who is currently unmarried, she is apparently not gay, being married twice and having had three children. I feel that Lennox enjoys dressing like a man and cutting her hair extremely short as it sets her apart as an artist.” Cornelio further continues her discussion of women dressing in
James Bond Supports International Women’s Day 14 drag as men, detailing masculine outfits of Diane Keaton and Isabella Rossellini and labeling them as drag. Clearly, in light of the WeAreEQUALS mission and the video’s message, this discussion is wholly unnecessary and shortsighted. More so, it succeeds in disciplining Craig in a dress as queer, rather than focusing on the point of the video. Butler (1990) contends that ambiguous performances of gender are subversive and work to overcome power structures. This was the video’s intention but we see this is not exactly how the media covered it. Sloop (2004) writes: “While gender ambiguity may indeed work subversively, it can quite often work complicity with dominant culture and dominant representations.” This is clear in the disciplining of James Bond’s cross-dressing. Though the video’s intention was to be thought provoking, or as WeAreEQUALS describes it, “highly emotional and deeply disturbing,” ultimately the mainstream online media deems this gender performance outrageous. That said, as the saying goes, all press is good press. In this case, the media’s sensationalization of cross-dressing ultimately helped the cause. The media sensationalized Craig’s gender representation within the video, but it was precisely that gender representation that garnered so much media attention. Without James Bond in drag, the video would not have been as popular nor would it have been shared so rapidly. Clearly, blogs and news outlets attempted to discipline the gender performance but this does not account for the popularity of the video itself. Despite the media’s disciplining of James Bond’s gender, this is the very thing that made it popular. The fact that it went viral so rapidly speaks to the sensationalism of
James Bond Supports International Women’s Day 15 unusual gender representation in a popular icon and its relation to the use of the Internet as a vehicle for the message. The peer-to-peer sharing nature of the Internet ensures that the target demographic saw the video.
Internet Memes and Democracy The James Bond viral video is an example of an Internet meme. Knobel and Lankshear (2007) use Dawkins’ (1989) three characteristics of memes in application to the Internet: fidelity, fecundity, and longevity. Fidelity refers to the quality of the meme and how memorable it is. Fecundity is the rate that a meme spreads. Contributing to a meme’s fecundity are the uses of humor, intertextuality and “anomalous juxtapositions.” Longevity is how long the Internet sensation lasts. In the case of the WeAreEQUALS video, the media’s coverage reflects the high quality and memorability, especially in relation to the stars’ participation. The fecundity dimension is apparent in how many news organizations picked up the story so quickly as well as how many hits it saw on YouTube. Furthermore, the James Bond video uses wry humor in the script (M says to Bond, “As a man, you are less likely to be judged for promiscuous behavior, which is just as well, frankly.”), is inherently intertextual in its use of the James Bond characters, and finally utilizes anomalous juxtapositions in its depiction of James Bond in women’s clothing. Lastly, in the era of short-lived Internet sensations, the James Bond film achieved sufficient longevity. (As Knobel and Lankshear explain: “ …all of them draw deeply on popular internet culture where, after all, 10 nanoseconds might be quite a long time, and 5 minutes—as the saying goes—can seem like more or less forever.”) The
James Bond Supports International Women’s Day 16 memetic qualities of the James Bond video allow for its message to be passed along successfully. In their analysis of five popular memes of the early millennium, Knobel and Lankshear found that the success of memes “whose purpose is to comment on or critique some aspect of society seems attributable in a significant way to the match between the meme and recognizable events or issues in the larger world.” The James Bond video critiqued gender representation and its relationship with gender equality. James Bond is an internationally recognizable figure. Therefore, this video is ultimately successful. The far-reaching mission of the WeAreEQUALS video and its apparent success relies on its memetic qualities in an era of media globalization. WeAreEQUALS is a partnership of organizations in the United Kingdom. However, its mission is international though the events of the EQUALS campaign are primarily located in the UK. As the Bond franchise is an international institution, the James Bond video is an attempt to reach out internationally, which WeAreEQUALS achieved with much success. Bennett (2003) would contend that this contributes to global citizenship in an era of media globalization, which aids in the transformative power of the video’s message. Bennett writes, “Communication in distributed networks becomes potentially transformative when networks spill outside the control of established organizations.” This is the precise definition of such a video going viral; the video has spilled outside of the confines of the UK and even outside of the media outlets that received the WeAreEQUALS press release. WeAreEQUALS no longer controlled the distribution of the video thanks to high volume linking via social networking sites as well as its online media coverage. The organization can
James Bond Supports International Women’s Day 17 owe this to a great press release but also to the decentralized and self-governing nature of the Internet itself. The Internet allows the video to contest power and become transformative which is achieved through the very nature of sharing. This video was shared at a rapid pace. It is clear that the message resonated with its viewers enough to pass along to one’s friends and families. Adamson (2009) contends that messages passed along peer-to-peer as opposed to brand-toconsumer are more likely to be watched and, consequently, the video always has an active audience. The number of views reflects the number of engaged eyes that watched the video with intention as opposed to the passive viewing of other advertisements, such as commercials on television. Moreover, viral videos target specific demographics and, as a result, the message will always reach its target audience (though, Adamson recognizes, it may not be the audience a brand thought it would get). In the case of the James Bond video, the target audience is men familiar with the James Bond franchise and progressive women who recognize that it is not solely their burden to work towards gender equality. The mission of the video does not simply stop with the end of the video. After Bond walks out of the frame, the WeAreEQUALS web address appears to encourage viewers to seek out further information on International Women’s Day and find out how they can support gender equality on both small and large scale levels. This is an example of computer-mediated technology’s ability to disseminate information, drum up support, and incite conversation—all components of what Nederman, Jones, and Fitzgerald (1998) consider “the most politically promising dimensions of the Net.” This relates back to Bennett’s forecast of the transformative
James Bond Supports International Women’s Day 18 power of the Internet. In an ungoverned environment, even the smallest voices can be heard, contributing to the inherent democratic ideals of the Internet. Messages that are articulated well (perhaps, through a popular video featuring A-list actors) can thrive online. Moreover, the production and distribution costs of the video was most likely relatively low, especially compared to full-length James Bond films, which reflects how easily a small organization with an important message can reach wide audiences and gain awareness for such issues through the Internet.
Conclusion To finish, the use of James Bond, even with his sexist history, does not dilute the message of the WeAreEQUALS campaign, though the media attempts to discipline Craig’s gender performance. On the other hand, the Internet allowed such a video to be incredibly effective. Consequently, the use of the James Bond franchise combats old stereotypes of feminists as too serious or too militant. By using new media to promote gender equality through a popular culture artifact, feminists’ reputations are the ultimate victors in this set of circumstances. More importantly, though, the use of new media and a popular cultural icon created a powerful message that is easy to share. However, the video mentions many issues important to third world countries. It must be noted that these countries may not have access to Internet and it is likely that the video’s mission has been lost on them. That said, it is important for citizens in developed countries to recognize the struggles of those less fortunate, not only to be grateful for the advances we have seen, but also to bring awareness to
James Bond Supports International Women’s Day 19 the experiences of others. The video provides a web address at the end that imparts information on how to help those less fortunate that the viewer as well as how to work towards gender equality in developed countries where the inequalities do not seem as obvious. Despite the shortcomings of computer-mediated technology, Internet memes allow for socially conscious messages to reach wide audiences with simple distribution methods. Through its use of wry humor, recognizable actors from an international popular culture institution, and non-normative gender representation, this Internet sensation brings awareness to an important issue. The media may try to discipline the gender representation in the video itself, but that does not undermine the message. In fact, it adds fuel to the fire and encourages even more active viewers to watch the video.
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